A Short Love About Film

Krótki film o miłości (A Short Film About Love, Krzysztof Kieślowski, 1988)

Young language scholar and postal worker Tomek (Olaf Lubaszenko) hides from Miss Poland in a room of his godmother’s (Stefania Iwinska) flat, obsessively using the telescope on his desk to spy on the older Magda (Grażyna Szapolowska) who lives in the opposite block. He steals her mail, sends her fake notifications about money orders arriving, silent calls her and even becomes her milkman.

Whilst he is undoubtedly sweet and gentle, this is frankly behaviour more deserving of a restraining order than a romantic tête-à-tête in an ice cream parlour. Any hopes I have that this can end well are clouded in guilt — this is scophilia at Warp Factor 10. It’s an exaggeration of the obsessive behaviour we engage in during the first flush of lust, but Tomek’s motives are perhaps less earthy.

Kieślowski turns a screw when things get nasty and we view it in a whole new light, although we should realise this when Magda first realises she is being watched. Film theory (Laura Mulvey and after) seems more comfortable with the male gaze than female exhibitionism — although we know that when the woman looks it’s going to get icky. Magda’s attempt to take back control makes the relationship more complex, and you have to reevaluate the godmother’s role in all this.

This was one of two episodes Kieślowski expanded from his television series, Dekalog — the other one being A Short Film About Killing (1988), which I must rewatch and see if I like it more than I did the first time. I rather bounced off the one of the Three Colours Trilogy I saw — and of course these were part of a whole raft of cult hits of the late 1980s and early 1990s (Birdy, Barfly) which now seem like distant memories.

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